༺ Alicia Arden (3) ༻
In front of me was the powerless corpse of the bisected black mage. Behind that corpse was the remains of a huge sword slash that made the entire forest look as if it had been cut into two with a sword.
Ah, we couldn’t even hide it at this point. It was clearly a Domain Severance. It was evidently something that could only be pulled off inside the Domain by someone walking down the path of sword.
Dude, how come… you’re using that already?
Like, I wasn’t expecting her to use Domain Severance at all. I just thought… she would use Crushing Steel or Three Paths of One Sword…
If you use Domain Severance here…
“What in the world just happened?”
“Oh my gosh! The forest got cut into two?! How is that even possible?”
“I’ve heard of this before! So that’s the legendary ‘Domain Severance’ of the Sword Emperor!”
“Ohhh! Does that mean that young lady would become the next head of the Arden family?”
“Of course! Domain Severance is the strongest move that no-one could use until now except for the Sword Emperor!”
No. Don’t do that. We can’t let everyone know that already!
“Mr. Korin! I did it! I did itt!”
Why does nothing go according to plan?
I clenched on the morning newspaper that was placed at the door of the hospital room to the point it got ripped.
Ahh, it had been a while!
But it wasn’t long enough for me to forget how it felt for everything to be fucked up so badly!
The reason there hadn’t been any proper competition between the successor candidates of the Arden family until now was because one side had been overwhelmingly greater than the other.
Alicia Arden could never defeat Lunia Arden even if she was to be born again.
Popularity, followers, capability… Lunia Arden had always been at an absolute advantage over her, but that single recent action started shaking the firm position and hierarchical status of Lunia Arden.
It was the killing move of the Sword Emperor. Alicia would now gather the eyes of a lot of people after re-enacting that legendary attack of the master of swords.
Let me say this again.
The fight for hierarchy in a group of beasts was brutal. The candidates had to repeat struggle upon struggle and wash blood with blood until they found themselves a leader.
That was no different for Alicia and Lunia.
What would happen if Lunia, who had practically been the only successor of the family, suddenly had her position threatened by another candidate?
‘The Five Swords would move immediately at the very least.’
It was the same back in the game. They were the loyal followers of Lunia Arden while at the same time having their families’ interests aligned with their loyalty.
Their mindset was similar to that of a delinquent, and as long as Alicia had her eyes on the successor position, they would ruthlessly try to stop her.
With Alicia’s current skills, it was hard for her to win against the Five Swords. She would be broken from their cooperation.
It was the climax of the character scenario plot of Alicia Arden – ❰Sword Challenge❱.
The traditional pretext was that five swordsmen at the level of an instructor would test the skills of the future captain of a sword squad but… the Sword Challenge of the Arden family had long turned into a legal elimination method of potential competitors.
Originally, it was an event that was supposed to arrive after enough level ups and Alicia increasing the proficiency of her swordsmanship skills but…. It would probably start immediately in the real world as soon as the conditions were met.
“Mr. Korin. Would you like some honey bomb candies?”
Oblivious to the alarm bell ringing in my mind, Alicia recommended me a candy with a bunch of candies in her mouth and bulging cheeks.
“That was actually not that bad! Just a bit painful!”
Last night, we went straight to the first aid rooms of the Academy after coming back from our mission. There weren’t that many problems for me because of my regeneration ability, but the problem was Alicia – her right arm was still bandaged.
The side effect of Domain Severance… Any movement inside the Domain was tremendously burdensome on the body. An average knight would have their body ripped to pieces from taking half a step forward within the Domain. Even though it was a very powerful skill, it came at a cost.
“When do you think you’ll be back to being fit?”
“Nnn. They said one or two more days should be okay with some potion.”
We didn’t have time. It actually would have been better for her to buy some time by staying at the hospital if the injury was bigger but…
Leaving the worries aside, I also had a different question for her.
“Anyway, what’s the secret?”
“You know, Domain Severance. Looking at the Domain with Eyes of the Boundary shouldn’t mean you can immediately use it though.”
When I asked back, Alicia replied with a ticklish voice while scratching her cheeks out of embarrassment.
“It’s because you trusted me, Mr. Korin, that I could do it.”
Umm… So was she saying a super optimistic mindset like, ‘I can do this!’ was all she needed to use Domain Severance?
“Hehe. So I tried and it worked.”
T, this…! This is why I hate geniuses…!
I could faintly understand why Lunia would be so upset. Anyone would find it unfair when looking at someone with such exceptional talents.
– Knock knock! A visitor.
That was when someone came in after opening the door.
It was Marie. She was wearing an adorable white dress while carrying a straw basket. How many potatoes would be inside that basket, I wonder?
“I heard you defeated the murderer, John Doe! Are you alright?”
“We were unlucky.”
Although the encounter had been somewhat intentional, I glossed over it as Marie suddenly raised her voice.
“Are you really alright?!”
“Uhh… Yeah. I am.”
“I can smell… blood though.”
I was inside the Crimson Haze so I probably did bleed quite heavily, and it was natural for me to stink like blood considering how it had been sucked out of my entire body.
It had all been recovered thanks to my regeneration ability but it seemed that she could still smell the leftover scent.
“You know how I have the regeneration ability, right? This much is nothing.”
Marie muttered with a teary voice. She was such a nice girl that she was concerned about a lot of things.
After a while, she discovered Alicia who was lying down next to me and spoke to her.
“Oh right. I am Marie Dunareff, a 2nd year student of the Magic Department.”
“Ah yes, nice to meet you, senpai. My name is Alicia Arden. I am a 1st year student at the Knight Department.”
“Ohh~ So you’re that Ms. Arden! I saw you in the newspaper! It was amazing! Didn’t you get a lot of injuries and stuff though?”
“Sorry? Umm, not really?”
“You should still get them checked! You never know!”
“Ah, yes… Thank you.”
Accepting the advice of the cheery senior, Alicia gave a nod.
“Well then, Korin. Have you had lunch yet? Should we eat together?”
“Ah, actually. I have something to talk about with Alicia.”
I had to discuss the future events with Alicia, because she was completely oblivious to the things that would happen from now on.
She had already acquired Domain Severance, which she was supposed to learn at the final stages of her growth as a swordsman. There was no way Lunia Arden and the Five Swords would leave her alone considering how symbolic that ability was.
Marie squinted her eyes and turned to Alicia.
“What is it about? Maybe we can do it together?”
“No. It has nothing to do with you, Senior Marie.”
It’s not something Marie could help with. Wait, actually… Maybe she could?
“It has nothing to do with me, huh. I see…”
For some reason, it felt like I was being pricked by her sharp voice. The smile on the face of the ever-smiling merchant Marie was slowly starting to vanish.
“Are the two of you very close?”
…Why was I suddenly feeling a chill down my spine? Was it because my blood had been sucked out inside the Crimson Haze?
It seemed that I wasn’t the only one who felt that chilliness.
“He’s my benefactor!”
“I would have died if not for Mr. Korin! He is my second benefactor!”
Actually, the first was also me but, anyway.
As if she could empathize with that statement, Marie started showing a bright smile on her face again.
“So, are the two of you close?”
However, the air was still rather cold.
Was this how it felt to be a rat in front of a tiger? I had an instinctive feeling that I had to choose my words carefully.
– Tung tung!
That was when a sudden thud echoed from the window. We nonchalantly turned to the side and flinched with a gasp.
Hanging outside the window was Hua Ran in her chained nun clothes with a bunch of talismans, glaring at me over the window.
…Isn’t this the 6th floor?
“Open it for her! Hurry up!”
“Y, yes sir!”
Alicia, who was next to the window, hurried over to the window and pushed it wide open. Hua Ran hopped into the room and softly landed on the floor like a cat.
Alicia gulped after seeing her like an intimidated mouse.
Unexpectedly, Marie greeted her with a bright smile. Both Alicia and I were rather freaked out by Hua Ran jumping up to the 6th floor from outside, but it seemed that Marie didn’t find it strange as a Unique-Grade herself.
The room became silent so I opened my mouth with a question.
“Why are you here?”
“No, wait. Didn’t I buy you one last time?”
So you mean sushi!!
It seemed that she still remembered the thing we talked about when I was buying her fish last time.
But it’s not like I promised her I would buy it or something, right?
“Umm… Now is not a great time. How about you ask Professor Josephine to go with you?”
“…She said no because of parasites.”
Even though there were all sorts of dishes in this world ranging from stews to kimchi, it seemed that there was still some repulsion against raw food.
It was especially more true for Lady Josephine considering her age…
“Korin,” said Marie.
“Did you buy Junior-Hua-Ran a meal?”
“Uhh… I did buy her once.”
“Oh~ I see. You have a lot of friends, don’t you?”
Well, it was true that I had a lot more friends in this iteration.
The standard group was with Jaeger and Lark. Sometimes, I would teach Yuel Ogham letters at the library and receive expensive mushrooms from the forest in return.
Dorron was a weekend member. We would do a mission together if there was something that paid a good price.
On the other hand, Kranel was a bit of a shy bloke and we played together once or twice a week.
Kyaah~! What a success at making friends this time compared to the last iteration? I’m finally getting rewarded for my constantly terrible school life after reaching my 3rd one.
“Umm… Senior Marie?”
“What is it? Junior?”
“I have a ticket for a restaurant in the city called ‘Holy Panda’. Would you like to go together?”
“I heard it’s famous for Eastern cuisine.”
Actually, Old Man Haman had come looking for me after the interim exam. He asked me if I defeated the elemental body on that day and suddenly gave me a ticket for a fine dining restaurant!
It was such a luxurious place that I wasn’t keen on going by myself, so it would be good for both of us if I went together with Marie.
Alicia reacted first instead of Marie.
“Mr. K, Korin. W, when you say Holy Panda, do you mean one of the three big restaurants alongside Creamcycle and Everglide Jade Black?? Where do you have to pay a gold coin for each meal?”
“Do you know that place, Alicia?”
“Of course! It was in the monthly Merchelin guide magazine. And it’s also famous for being one of the best restaurants for a date!”
Marie gasped as if she had trouble breathing. It seemed to be a really famous restaurant.
Actually, I used to go to these places quite often in the last iteration as well.
With Mr. Park, that is.
…How did I not notice it until the last moment?
The room stayed silent for a while.
It was strange how silent Marie was. Her cold gaze was long gone and was replaced with trembling eyeballs and a gulp that was so loud that I could hear it from a distance.
“S, shall we? Okay! I’ll get prepared right away!!”
“It doesn’t have to be right now…”
Swish! After saying a bunch of stuff in one go, Marie dashed out of the room. You weren’t supposed to run in the corridor though.
I was about to explain how we should approach this upcoming bomb, but that was when a loud thud reached us from the corridor.
– Tap tap tap tap tap!
With a flushed face that signified the distance she had run, Marie gasped while handing me a glass bottle.
“This! Elixir! I made it myself! It’ll be very good on wounds!”
Like, I was fully healed and I didn’t need it though – I was about to say that but Marie immediately began rushing down the corridor again.
– Please don’t run in the corridor!
– Hukk! Sorry!
Marie was gone while a pinkish elixir was resting on my hand.
“…Isn’t this super expensive?”
An elixir was something that boasted of having 10 times the effectiveness of normal potions. This specific one… was probably made by Marie extracting her own blood.
“Alicia. Pour this on your right arm.”
“Sorry? I, is that okay?”
“I’ll be leaving very soon so it’s okay. We have to fix your right arm first.”
“I, I’m not sure if I can take this though…”
Alicia murmured while glancing at the corridor.
“It’s okay. Senior Marie is a nice person.”
“Then… Thank you very much.”
“…What about my meal?”
Hua Ran… do I owe you fish or something?
“Okay. I’ll bring you to a sushi place next week and buy you as much as you want so let’s do something together before that.”
“…What is it?’
Then, I started explaining about the current situation.
I explained how Alicia’s sister was a very scary person and how her loyal subordinates would soon come and try to crush Alicia.
The culture of the sword clan, Arden – ‘Sword Challenge’.
I told Alicia about ‘Sword Challenge’, which was the tradition of the Arden family.
Her face started turning pale throughout the story and she finally understood her current status – how she personally stepped into the fight for hierarchy between beasts due to using Domain Severance while defeating John Doe last night.
“W, what should I do?! I’ll die if I fight Sister! Actually, I won’t even be able to win against the Five Sword sisters!”
Alicia said while shivering from fear. Since she was now in the realm of the Domain, it should be possible for her to defeat one of the Five Swords, but it would be a different story if it turned into a group fight.
“We do have a way out, but there is a condition.”
“C, condition? Anything is fine. Please let me live!”
“From now on, whenever I say we should defeat a demonic beast or go train together at the training rooms, you need to come without any complaints. You’ll be a so-called fixed member of my party.”
“Is, is that all?”
It was actually very important. You see, your job now will be to go around with me defeating Unique Grades.
King of Iron Mountain was an especially harder boss to defeat without her help.
And of course… there was no need to talk about that yet.
“So, what’s your choice?”
“I, I will swear loyalty so please help me!”
“Good. I have received thy pledge of loyalty.”
Now, it was time to talk about our plan. Leaving aside Lunia Arden, it was a fact that the Five Swords would be coming at us.
If there was no way around something…
“There is something I learned when I was in the military… I mean a camp.”
It was a 2-year-long camp. And rather than learning, it was something we had to scream out every time we were doing a squat.
“If there is no way around it, enjoy it.”
“W, what do you mean by that?”
I gave the ignorant Alicia a grin and opened my mouth to enlighten her.
“We shall strike first.”
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